What are the health benefits of fruits and vegetables?
You probably know that a healthy diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. Yet you may not think about why those fruits and veggies are so important for keeping your body healthy. Fruits and vegetables contain many nutrients that help to maintain and even improve your health, including:
- Potassium: Eating plenty of potassium-rich foods may help lower your blood pressure, which may decrease your risk of heart disease or stroke. Potassium is found in many vegetables, such as potatoes (both sweet and white), beans, tomato sauce (and other tomato products), spinach, and lentils. Fruits high in potassium include bananas, prunes, dried peaches and apricots, cantaloupe, and orange juice.
- Folate (or folic acid): Folate aids in the body’s production of red blood cells, and it is especially important for pregnant women to get enough folate in their diet to prevent birth defects. Folate can be found in many fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens (such as spinach), citrus fruits and juice, and beans.
- Fiber: A diet rich in fiber may reduce cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease. Fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrots, raspberries, pears, apples (with the skin), and oranges, are an excellent source of fiber
- Vitamin A: Eating foods with vitamin A helps maintain healthy eyes and skin, as well as protect the body from infection. You can increase vitamin A in your body by eating sweet potatoes, winter squash, leafy greens (such as collard or kale), carrots, mango, cantaloupe, and grapefruit.
- Vitamin C: This nutrient helps the body absorb iron and heal cuts and wounds. Vitamin C also plays a role in maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Vitamin C can be found in many fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, pineapple, mango, broccoli, green and red peppers, leafy greens, and tomatoes.
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables will help you to increase your intake of these and other important nutrients, contributing to better health. Additionally, because fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories, eating them in place of high-calorie or high-fat foods may help in maintaining a healthy weight.
How will you make sure you fill your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables this year?
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